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Bouvier des Ardennes

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Bouvier de Ardennes

The Bouvier des Ardennes is a large Belgium purebred bred to help herd and drive cattle in the region of Ardennes. It is a large and rugged dog, developed to be hardy and very adaptable. As well as being kept as an all purpose working dog it was also a protective, playful, obstinate and curious companion and can be a good family companion. Other names it is known by are the Ardennes Droving Dog and Ardennes Cattle Dog. It is a rare breed even within its own country today and has a life span of around 10 to 14 years.

The Bouvier des Ardennes at A Glance
Name Bouvier des Ardennes
Other names Ardennes Cattle Dog, Ardennes Droving Dog
Nicknames None
Origin Belgium
Average size Large
Average weight 48 to 80 pounds
Average height 20 to 25 inches
Life span 10 to 14 years
Coat type Dry, coursed, long and tussled outercoat – dense innercoat
Hypoallergenic No
Color All colors except white
Popularity Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence High – smart and talented breed
Tolerance to heat Very good – can adapt to most climates
Tolerance to cold Very good – as above
Shedding Average – will be some hair around the home
Drooling Average – will be some slobber
Obesity Average – measure food and make sure it is exercised well
Grooming/brushing Average to high – brush every other day
Barking Average – does bark occasionally
Exercise needs Very active – best with active owners
Trainability Easy to train
Friendliness Moderate to good with socialization but protective
Good first dog Good but best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good to very good but the nipping and herding will need to be trained out and needs socialization
Good with other dogs Good but needs socialization
Good with other pets Moderate – socialization needed but may still be issues due to high prey drive
Good with strangers Moderate – needs socialization and training, but still wary and that can turn to suspicion
Good apartment dog No – needs room, ideally rural setting but at least a large yard
Handles alone time well Low – prone to separation anxiety
Health issues Fairly healthy, some issues include Hip/elbow dysplasia, eye problems, epilepsy and bloat
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $270 a year for high quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1000 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $900
Rescue organizations None breed specific – look to local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported

The Bouvier des Ardennes' Beginnings

There was a time when those dogs that were used to work with cattle were called Bouvier meaning bovine herder. They were then given the name of the region it was from to distinguish the different types. Hence the Bouvier des Ardennes was bred and developed in the Ardenne region in Belgium to herd and manage cattle likely prior to the time when records were kept on dog breeding. Farmers had to move cattle from one field to another for fresh grazing and had to bring them to the market when it was to sell. It was developed to be able to deal with harsh climates and difficult terrain, and was also used with other farm animals like pigs, sheep and horse being highly valued as drovers and guardians.

It was first written about in the 1800s and it is clear that the breed was well established by then though not what breeds were used in its development. It was only known in its own region and does not seem to exist anywhere else until the 1900s. While used mostly for its original purpose from the 1800s it was also used to hunt with. This is because farmers would keep the best dogs to herd their cattle and then sell their surplus ones and hunters would buy them. It was known by the end of the 1800s to be great to out to hunt wild boar and deer with. For a long time the dogs were bred just based on working ability and there were at least 5 different Bouvier breeds in Belgium at this time.

At the end of the 19th century the popularity of dog shows had started and it eventually came to Belgium. There came a national interest in standardizing national dog breeds and giving them recognition. In 1913 the Liege Society for the Improvement of the Cattle Dog was started and a standard for the Bouvier des Ardennes was proposed. However disaster for dog breeding and the country came in the form of World War I. German occupation devastated the country and dog numbers plummeted. Breeding almost came to a halt and possibly the only thing that saved the dog was its hunting ability as families turned to poaching to avoid starvation. This continued after the war and while it gained recognition from the Belgian Kennel Club in 1923 there were really not many left by then. Then again disaster hit the country with World War II and another German occupation. Dog populations that had only just started recovering from the first war were again decimated, this time several breeds disappeared and the Bouvier des Ardennes came very close.

Bouvier de Ardennes

New Lease on Life

In fact for 3 or 4 decades after the second world war it was believed that the breed was actually extinct. Then in the 1980s a group of them were found when animal researchers were collecting colostrum from cattle in southern Belgium and noticed dogs owned by the local farmers that looked like the extinct breed. Breeders started working on the breed's recovery when in the 1990s another group of dogs were found this time in Northern Belgium, kept by farmers for herding cattle for over 70 years. These were added to the breeding program and since then fanciers and breeders have been working hard to improve its numbers and restore it using the standard drawn up in 1923. In 2006 it was recognized by the UKC and the FCI had recognized it previously but the AKC has yet to. In Belgium it remains to be mostly a working dog though there are a small number of fanciers who keep it just as a companion. It has been making slow recovery and its numbers are still low even in Belgium. Elsewhere in the world it is very rare.

The Dog You See Today

This dog is a large purebred weighing 48 to 80 pounds and standing 20 to 25 inches tall. It is compact and squared in shape, muscular but lithe and athletic though its thick coat makes it look bulkier than it is. Traditionally its tail is docked very short however in many countries docking tails is no longer allowed. Some are actually born with a naturally short tail and some have a longer high set and thick tail. It has a muscular neck and powerful body with a broad chest and strong legs. Its coat is wiry, harsh and tousled. It is a double coat and is dense and very weatherproof. Most of the coat is 21/2 inches long but it is shorter on the head and face apart from where there are eyebrows, a mustache and a beard. It can be any color as this is not something that is important for working breeds, but the most common ones are grey, fawn, black or brindle. There can be a small amount of white on the feet and chest but it should not be anywhere else.

Its head is small for its size and is flat. It has small triangular erect ears set high in general, but some can be born with rose ears or semi pricked ears. It has a fairly thick muzzle that is short, has close fitting lips and a black wide nose. Its dark eyes are small to medium sized, oval shaped and are not set very far apart. As mentioned it has hair longer around its chin, above its eyes and under its nose creating the look of bushy eyebrows, a mustache and a beard.


The Inner Bouvier des Ardennes


The Bouvier des Ardennes is a very adaptable breed and is also a hard worker. It likes to have something to do and prefers to be busy rather than laze around. Out working it has a lot of stamina and is focused but in the home it can be a playful, friendly and gentle dog making it a good family breed when raised well. While it is used to having some independence it can also be obedient and loyal with a firm owner. It has a loving side and it is also protective of its territory and home, and of you and its family. It will bark to alert you if there is something wrong or an intruder, and being brave and bold it will act to defend you. It is wary of strangers and should be well socialized so that it reacts appropriately.

This dog is very curious about everything and loves to investigate and explore. It is also extremely dedicated to its family to the point where it does not like to be left alone and develop separation anxiety. If you do not want a dog following you around the home to be closer to you, this is not the dog for you.

Bouvier de Ardennes

Living with a Bouvier des Ardennes

What will training look like?

These are very intelligent dogs and as long as you approach it correctly they are definitely easy to train. However they do have a stubborn side to them, so if you are not prepared to be firm, consistent and the clear leader it will not go as well. This dog can easily learn beyond basic obedience training and that is a good way to ensure it gets enough mental stimulation too. It can easily be trained in canine sporting events too. Be a confident leader and use positive training methods to encourage and motivate it. Also make sure its training covers socialization and that you start that as early as possible. Introduce different people, places, situations, sounds and animals to it, so it learns how to react and what is appropriate.

How active is the Bouvier des Ardennes?

Being a working dog means the Bouvier des Ardennes is a very active dog and needs to be busy and doing something for much of its time, or it will become restless, destructive, hyperactive and hard to live with. It does best in rural areas where there is space for it to explore and run, but at least needs a larger home with a large yard. It is not suited to apartment living. It is best with active owners so that making sure it gets enough mental and physical stimulation is not a chore. It can adapt to both hot and cold climates and has a lot of stamina and endurance. An absolute minimum of physical activity a day would be an hour but really it will easily do more. Give it a couple of long walks a day, physical play with you and safe off leash run time. It can join you for a jog or go hiking with you too.

Caring for the Bouvier des Ardennes

Grooming needs

It does take some commitment for grooming as if it is not brushed regularly the coat quickly and easily becomes matted and full of tangles. Expect to brush at least every other day and that will also help with the shedding, every day is best. It is an average shedder apart from a couple of times a year when it is seasonally heavy. Usually it does not need professional grooming though some choose to have it shaved. Only bathe it when it needs it with a dog shampoo so that the natural oils in its skin are not damaged.


Its ears need to be cleaned by wiping not inserting anything. Use a damp cloth or dog ear cleanser solution and wipe just where you can reach, doing it weekly. Also take the time to check for signs of infection like irritation, a bad odor, redness and such. Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week using a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. The nails should be cut when they get too long using dog clippers and only cutting as far down as the quick of the nail. This way you avoid the blood vessels and nerves.

Feeding Time

The Bouvier des Ardennes will eat between 3 to 5 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals to avoid issues with bloat. It can vary because of size, rate of metabolism, level of activity, age and health. Make sure it has fresh water.

How is the Bouvier des Ardennes with children and other animals?

With good socialization and training the Bouvier des Ardennes can be good with children especially when raised with them. Being a herding dog though it will have a tendency to circle them and nip at their heels to herd them so make sure training deals with that issue. It can accidentally knock over young children too when it does not play gently enough. Being a cattle drover and herder and sometime hunter it does not tend to get on well with other animals. Being raised with them can help but it is no guarantee. It can get along fine with other dogs, some can be reserved but usually not aggressive unless there are male dominance issues involved.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

These dogs have a life span of 10 to 14 years and is generally healthy though some issues can include bloat, eye problems, epilepsy and joint dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacks against people over the last 35 years in the US and Canada there is no mention of the Bouvier des Ardennes. Being rare of course it is not likely to come up in anything in North America but it is not a people aggressive dog anyway. While you can never completely guarantee a dog would never react aggressively to anything there are things you can do as a good owner to lessen the chances. Train and socialize it well, give it attention and stimulation it needs and raise it well.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Bouvier des Ardennes puppy will cost about $900 from a decent breeder and more if you are looking for a top show breeder. Being rare it is likely you will also be put on a waiting list. Avoid using puppy mills, pet stores and backyard breeders. If your dog does not have to be a purebred there is always the option of using shelters or rescues to find a new companion. A lot of dogs are hoping for someone to come take them home and love them and adoption fees are only $50 to $400 at most places.


Once you have found the dog you want there are some things it will need like a crate, carrier, leash and collar, bowls and such for about $240. There are also health needs to take care of as soon as you bring it home. Micro chipping, blood tests, deworming, shots, spaying or neutering, a good physical exam for example which are going to cost around $290.

There are also ongoing costs when you have a pet to look after. A Bouvier des Ardennes has basic medical needs like vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, check ups and pet insurance for about $485 a year. Feeding it a good quality food and dog treats will cost another $270 a year. Miscellaneous costs like items, license, basic training and toys come to another $245 a year. This gives an estimated annual starting figure of $1000 a year.


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The Bouvier des Ardennes is not an easy dog to find outside of Belgium, and even in its own country it is still a rare dog, though it is slowly being brought back from extinction by dedicated breeders and fanciers. It is best kept as a working dog and companion, as it needs to be kept busy. However it can be a good family dog as long as it is given enough exercise and stimulation, and it does need good socialization and training.

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